AG Reginald Armour –
ATTORNEY General Reginald Armour, SC, is applying to join Caribbean Airlines (CAL) in its ongoing injunction preventing pilots from any sort of industrial action including calling in sick en masse, following last weekend’s sudden disruption to the airline’s service.
From last Friday to last Sunday, some 75 pilots called in sick, resulting in CAL cancelling 60 flights – domestic and international – and affecting 5,000 passengers.
CAL CEO Garvin Medera told reporters on Thursday the airline was “deeply sorry” over the disruption faced by passengers and lamented a cost to the airline of at least $15 million (including the wetlease of six aircraft and refunding of tickets and hotel costs) plus the reputational damage and opportunity cost to CAL.
In an emergency session last Monday afternoon, a three-person panel at the Industrial Court had granted an interim ex parte injunction until September 28.
The AG is now seeking to become a party to this action, joining CAL.
The TT Constitution (section 76) states the AG’s role as the country’s legal actor. It says he/she shall be “responsible for the administration of legal affairs in TT, and legal proceedings for and against the State shall be taken in the case of civil proceedings in the name of the Attorney General.”
Also by convention, in UK-based jurisdictions he is considered to be the state’s legal adviser, representative and somewhat embodiment.
The Attorney General’s Office recently applied to the Industrial Court to become a party to CAL’s injunction, under the Industrial Relations Act.
This act (section 20) states, “The Attorney General may intervene at his own instance in any dispute where it appears to him that some question of public importance or affecting the public interest or both has arisen and that it is fit and proper that the public interest should be represented therein.”
The AG’s Office has signalled that the public interest must be represented in the CAL matter. He is seriously concerned about several issues and matters of public interest. The office emphasised CAL is a subsidised and state-owned airline, operating domestically, regionally and internationally from TT as a prime regional carrier.
Owing to this fact, any detriment to CAL’s operations could hurt the TT general public, the AG’s Office reasoned.
It said last weekend’s disruption had cost CAL about $17 million and counting, including funding compensation and refunds, plus reputational damage and loss of confidence conveyed globally by social media and mainstream media. CAL also had to redeploy its staff and pay overtime wages. The total impact is still being assessed.
The AG’s Office said its letter to the court was a formal application to join CAL’s injunction.
It argued that there was enough time to do this before the case came back to court on September 28.
On Friday evening, CAL on its Facebook page announced a refund portal, as had been promised by Medera on Thursday.
The CAL post said, “Caribbean Airlines has set up a dedicated refund portal for all customers inconvenienced by flight cancellations over the period August 19-22. “The portal is live and accessible via www.refunds.caribbean-airlines.com.”
At lunchtime on Friday, a CAL post on social media said its regular operations were fully restored.
It gave figures indicating the punctuality of CAL flights on Thursday had exceeded international averages.
“The airline’s on-time performance as of 5 pm on August 24 was 95 per cent across the network (international and domestic).” It said the global industry standard was 85 per cent. Regarding the air bridge, the post added, “The on-time performance for domestic operations between ‘Trinidad’ and ‘Tobago’ was 100 per cent.”
The airline invited upcoming passengers to request reminders about their fight details, by way of automatic updates and notifications, by registering at the CAL website. It reminded passengers of its three-hour check-in time for international flights and two hours for domestic flights.
“Caribbean Airlines thanks its stakeholders for their continued support and reaffirms its commitment to delivering safe and reliable airlift.”